BLOOMINGTON — Andy Contois was named to the Bloomington Thunder coaching staff Thursday after Leon Hayward left the organization to become an NCAA Division I assistant coach at Colorado College.

Contois spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Brookings Blizzard of the North American Hockey League (NAHL).

“The opportunity means everything,” Contois said in a team news release. “It’s part of the process of coaching. You always want to move up. I’m just extremely grateful for the opportunity that the organization has given me and I’m excited to get moving.”

Hayward joined the Thunder in early June, filling the vacancy created when Mike Watt was elevated to head coach after Dennis Williams was promoted to the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips.

“We’re in this game to promote and develop our players and also our staff, so they can move up and reach their highest goals in the game of hockey,” said Watt, who added the role of general manager when Dan Jewell accepted a D-I job at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute last month. “This is a busy season in hockey. It’s a chance for to move guys on. As Leon moves on, Andy moves up.

“We’re really excited for Leon and his family for this great opportunity. We’re hiring the right people for our organization that are being moved on in this game. Leon is no different. We wish Leon and his family nothing but the best.”

Contois, a Michigan native who had a 10-year pro career after playing D-I hockey at Northern Michigan, helped guide Brookings to consecutive playoff berths the past two years, including a 30-25-5 record last season.

“I had a number of former players and coaches that spoke so highly of Andy,” Watt said. “He’s going to continue on the same path as Leon in this game. We’re excited to have him. His experience in development and attention to detail are second to none. It’s going to help our staff in the future with the program.”

Before college, Contois played two seasons of junior hockey, starting in the NAHL with the Springfield Junior Blues in 1999-2000 before joining the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers.

“It’s the best league in North America as far as development and moving guys on,” Contois said of the USHL. “The guys are hungry. They want to be better. A lot of them want to be pros. That’s exciting for me to work with the cream of the crop and have the opportunity to develop those kids and move them on. ... Helping them achieve those goals, that’s what motivates me to come to the rink every day.”

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Assistant Sports Editor

Assistant Sports Editor for The Pantagraph.

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